Franziska Schmidt has joined Modern Languages & Cultures as an Honorary Associate in German, having graduated from the University of Tübingen in Protestant Theology and English. Having specialised in both literature (from Shakespeare to Dickens) and linguistics, Franziska developed a particular interest in the German language, especially German phonetics and phonology. Above all, Franziska is considering pronunciation from the perspective of German as a foreign language, and this is one of the key things that she intends to explore whilst in Liverpool.
To my own surprise, there is a lot to say about German pronunciation, not least because of the unusual consonant clusters.
Franziska is keen to work with the department’s students of German to help them perfect the intricacies of pronunciation, not least where there is no symmetry between the sound system of English – which is the first language of most of the student body – and that of German. In particular, Franziska is keen to help students work on the three umlaut-sounds (ä,ö,ü) that English-language speakers find challenging, and also on the specifically German consonant clusters, such as pf, ch, sch, etc., that seem to cause difficulties for some students. In order to make things a little easier, Franziska is trying to describe where and how some of these sounds are produced in the mouth and, more importantly, how to practise them. To this end, she is developing sound files and videos so that students can listen to German pronunciation and watch lip movements. She hopes that these videos will not only entertain students, but also help learners of German to improve their pronunciation.